Safaricom Embarks on a Social Networking Adventure

  • Safaricom is building a social network on top of its payments platform
  • 69% of mobile subscriptions are on Safaricom’s platform

The leading mobile telecommunications provider in Kenya Safaricom is launching a messaging app called Bonga. It’s customers will be able to chat and send money on the platform. This will be integrated with the company’s M-Pesa mobile payments app. What impact will this new service have on Safaricom’s dominance over Kenya’s mobile telecommunications industry?

Why This Matters: Safaricom controls 69% of Kenya’s mobile telecommunications market with 29.5 million mobile subscriptions. The company adding messaging capabilities to their customer offerings increases the stickiness of their already dominant M-Pesa platform. Safaricom has seen increased competition from competitors like Airtel Networks and Telkom Kenya whose growing service provisions have eaten into the company’s mobile subscriptions.

The integration of mobile payment technology and messaging applications is a trend taking place globally. Venmo was the first platform to integrate both technologies natively in the U.S. Also, Facebook has opened its Messenger app up to payments. In China, companies like Tencent and Alibaba have rapidly driven the country towards becoming a cashless society. Safaricom plans for Bonga to grow its market share globally, beginning with the 10 countries where the M-Pesa app is available across Africa, Europe and Southeast Asia.

What’s Next: Safaricom recently rolled out a pilot of its Bonga app to 600 users. The pilot Bonga Sasa, will be rolling out the various components of the platform over the course of 2018. The next phase of the rollout, Bonga Baraza, will incorporate the ability for users to collect payments from multiple users for a dedicated event. The final phase, Bonga Biashara, will enable users to create business profiles, upload content to sell and distribute online.

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